Gun background checks jump on Black Friday

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Shooter’s Choice owner Beth Parsons, of Dover, holds a Smith & Wesson M&P 15T rifle in her store. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Black Friday 2015 saw a record number of background checks for prospective firearm buyers, the FBI said.

According to the bureau, slightly more than 185,000 background checks were initiated Nov. 27, surpassing the mark set Dec. 21, 2012, one week after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn.

All the top 10 dates have come since 2012, with seven in the end-of-year holiday season period of November and December.

In Delaware, 67 more background checks were conducted on Black Friday 2015 than the previous year, and while that number may seem small, it marks a 16 percent increase. That’s nearly triple the national increase of 5.5 percent.

In total, 514 background tests were ordered for Delawareans on Black Friday, although several owners of gun stores reported differing levels of activity.

Across the nation, the number of background checks is trending up, indicating more guns potentially are being bought. While a background check does not mean a firearm ended up being purchased, it’s a necessary step for someone looking to obtain one.

About 16,000 background checks were conducted in Delaware in 2007, and 23,000 in 2011. Just two years later the number had risen to 40,000, and with one month to go this year, nearly 43,000 checks have been completed.

In November, Delaware saw 5,040 background reviews, most of which were for handguns (2,152) or long guns (2,424).

Bob Miller, owner of Miller’s Gun Center, said customers have expressed concerns about authorities being unable to protect them.

“American people are really realizing that they are on their own, and they’re really realizing that they need to be responsible for their own personal safety,” he said, citing recent mass shootings that have been linked to terrorism.

Miller’s Gun Center, in New Castle, did not see much of a boost over an average Friday, Mr. Miller said, although as a whole, the holiday season is one of his busiest times, especially in recent years.

While Black Friday may not have been a big deal for Miller’s, Shooter’s Choice, in Dover, experienced a different story.

“We did have pretty high volume of people coming in and not only purchasing guns, but using the range access as well,” said Shooter’s Choice owner Beth Parsons.

Her store initiated about a dozen background checks on Black Friday, double the normal volume for a Friday.

Customers were interested in a wide array of firearms, she said, noting no hotly anticipated new guns came out around that time.

Brian Brown, owner of Smyrna Sporting Goods, said while he did good business on Black Friday, most of that came from people buying clothes, hunting supplies and other items.

In total, seven or eight people sought to buy firearms that day, he said. The store’s Black Friday high is 33, set shortly before the Great Recession.

The recession began in December 2007, according to Investopedia.com.

Buying a gun

Background checks, conducted at the federal level, are required for any Delawarean hoping to purchase a gun.

Residents of the First State, who must be 18 to get a long gun and 21 to get a handgun, can buy a firearm from an authorized detailer but only after being cleared by the FBI.

A licensed dealer must provide the prospective customer’s information, such as name and address, to the FBI over the phone or Internet, and providing false information to the government is a crime.

The agency’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, in Clarksburg, West Virginia, will look up the individual using a database containing criminal information provided by the states.

If no results are returned, the buyer is cleared — easier for someone with a unique name. If there is a match, the purchase must be delayed, at which point the investigator has three business days to further examine the person’s information.

The background check system can then approve or deny the sale. Someone who is rejected can file an appeal.

A number of reasons can disqualify a would-be gun owner, such as having been dishonorably discharged from the military, committed to a mental institution or convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year’s imprisonment.

Should no response be received in the three-day timeframe, the seller is legally allowed to turn the gun over to the buyer. In the event information establishes the buyer is not allowed to have a gun turns up later, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System can order the firearms dealer to relinquish the purchase — a rare act Mr. Brown said he has only had to do twice in 11 years.

Some states, all of which are left-leaning, require firearm registration. Delaware does not.

Whereas the federal government has no restrictions on private gun sales, Delaware has placed limitations on them.

Thomas Shellenberger, spokesman for the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, said the state virtually has “outlawed” private sales.

Firearm-owning Delawareans seeking to move to another state may have to go through an additional process depending on the state. California, for instance, has strict gun laws, in contrast to a state like Texas.

Gun advocates and organizations such as the National Rifle Association have opposed efforts from local lawmakers that would place some additional restrictions on firearms, such as one placing greater limitations on an individual given a protection from abuse for domestic violence.

Per capita, slightly fewer checks were conducted in Delaware in 2014 than the national average. While Delaware is a Democratic-leaning state, it does have a tradition of hunting, with rural areas in the state where gun ownership can be common.

Ms. Parsons, of Shooter’s Choice, thinks the laws on the books are largely unobjectionable.

“If you’re an everyday person with a clean record and you don’t have any felony charges pending or in the past, you’ve never done jail time, it’s fairly reasonable,” she said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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